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Comparing Man City’s £62.8m star and Barcelona’s Frenkie De Jong – has Guardiola found the right man?

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Comparing Man City’s £62.8million record signing and Barcelona’s Frenkie De Jong

Man City made the headlines in the summer window with the club-record £62.8million signing of Spanish international midfielder Rodri from Atletico Madrid, with the 23-year-old’s arrival at the Etihad, ending manager Pep Guardiola’s long and hard quest for a long-term replacement for Fernandinho.

The Brazilian played a key role in City’s title-winning campaign this past season but he is expected to receive less game time next term due to his advancing years.

Over the past few years, we have seen that City haven’t hesitated to splash the cash in order to bring in top-quality players from across the continent.

However, as we have often seen from their recruitment policy, the paymasters at the Etihad have always stuck to paying the right amount for the players they need.

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The fans had every reason to be disappointed as the club missed out on signing Frenkie De Jong of Ajax, who has signed for Barcelona. Nevertheless, they can heave a sigh of relief given that Rodri has finally arrived to answer their prayers.

Well, as things stand, Man City have Rodri and Barcelona have Frenkie de Jong and, while there is no direct connection between the two clubs because they play in different leagues, it is worth discussing as to who got the better deal.

Have Man City landed themselves an ideal alternative to De Jong and a good long-term replacement for Fernandinho?

With that in mind, let us compare how the likes of Rodri and De Jong fared for their respective clubs in comparison to City’s current midfield general Fernandinho.

Statistical comparison of Fernandinho, Rodri and Frenkie de Jong from 2018-19 season:-

NameTICTotTPPSKPADATDR
Fernandinho21.42.45.870.787.50.82.61.680.7
Rodri31.226.256.791.10.52.30.570.6
Frenkie de Jong1.71.41.34.479.591.11.51.13.692

Key:- T- tackles, I- interceptions, C- clearances, Tot- T+I+C, TP- Total passes, PS- Pass success rate, KP- Key passes, AD- Aerial duels won, AT- Progressive Runs per 90 mins, DR- Dribbles

The table above throws light on the vital stats of each player, ranging from the number of tackles, interceptions and clearances per game to the number of passes completed, attacking numbers and so on.

Also, it is worth mentioning here that a mere comparison of the numbers cannot decide as to who is better, given that the three players played in different teams, in different leagues and under completely different managerial philosophies last season.

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Starting with the defensive numbers, Rodri’s total of 6.2 interventions per game last season puts him above De Jong’s 4.4 interventions and Fernandinho’s total of 5.8 per game.

Rodri completed a staggering 103 tackles in the La Liga this past season, which puts him miles above Fernandinho’s 57 and De Jong’s 54. Also, Rodri averaged an impressive 2.3 aerial duels in the La Liga, although Fernandinho still edges ahead with 2.6 per game in the Premier League.

Looking at the number of passes played by each player, De Jong certainly tops the list in that aspect, which is not surprising given that Ajax adopted a free-flowing possession-based approach under Erik ten Haag. Fernandinho is closer to those numbers with 70.7 passes per game, while Rodri is way behind with just 56.7.

However, those numbers largely stem from the tactical differences between Atletico and Ajax, meaning that the La Liga outfit’s more defence-oriented and direct brand of football could probably have caused Rodri to play fewer passes as compared to the two other players.

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However, the most important thing is that there is little to separate between Rodri, De Jong and Fernandinho when it comes to the pass accuracy rates.

Both De Jong and Rodri boast of a pass success rate of 91.1%, numbers which put them ahead of Fernandinho’s 87.5%, although we all know that those kinds of accuracy rates are considered as eye-watering for central midfielders.

The attacking numbers

The attacking prowess is exactly where major differences lie. As witnessed during Ajax’s incredible run to the semi-finals the Champions League last season, De Jong showcased a level of maturity that defied his tender years not only in terms of positioning, composure, movement, and defensive acumen, but the Dutchman also outsmarted the opposition with his intelligence, creativity from the deeper areas and ability to carry the ball forward with drive and determination.

Rodri, on the other hand, offered little going further up the pitch and any follower of Spanish football would not dare to argue with the fact that he is by no means an overly creative player.

Yes, his positional sense, passing abilities and tactical awareness make him similar to Sergio Busquets but he doesn’t have the dribbling ability and the natural flair to create space in the midfield as De Jong does.

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Coming back to the numbers, De Jong averaged 3.69 progressive runs per 90 minutes last season, figures which put him head and shoulders above the likes of Fernandinho and Rodri with 1.68 and 0.57 respectively.

Also, De Jong’s 2 dribbles per game are better than Fernandinho’s 0.7 and Rodri’s 0.6 quite comfortably. Let us not forget that Rodri, though quite agile and athletic, stands at 6ft 3in, so one would not expect him to move as quickly as De Jong does.

Barring the difference in styles of the three players involved in the discussion, those numbers also have a lot to do with the tactical differences between the respective teams, in the sense that Guardiola and Simeone like their deep midfielders to stay positionally disciplined and not commit too far forward, whilst Ten Haag seemed to adopt a completely different approach.

Image result for rodri

Man City were happy to let Fernandinho sit back deep and dictate the play given the abundance of quality in their attacking ranks. Keeping that in mind, it is not surprising to see that De Jong registered 1.5 key passes as compared to Rodri’s 0.5 and Fernandinho’s 0.8. 

Verdict

Whether Man City or Barcelona have got the better deal is something that only time will reveal when de Jong and Rodri take the field for their new clubs this season.

However, as evident from the statistical comparison, the fans on the blue half of Manchester have every reason to be confident that the Spaniard can, indeed, fit into Fernandinho’s shoes.

Yes, De Jong would have been a more dynamic prospect given his creativity and natural flair but as mentioned earlier, Guardiola likes his central defensive midfielder to stay positionally disciplined and not necessarily contribute to the attack too much.

Image result for rodri

While the entire stability of Guardiola’s 4-3-3 system depends on the effectiveness of the No.6 in the middle of the park, the Citizens largely rely on the two attack-minded midfielders on either side to shoulder the attacking responsibilities and support the front trio.

Hence, it is clear that Man City already have loads of quality as far as their options in the final third are concerned, which is exactly why Rodri’s lack of creativity should not bother them too much.

Nevertheless, the Spaniard will be expected to play a key role for the Citizens in the Premier League this term, as Guardiola looks to make it a hat-trick of league triumphs.

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Arsenal

Liverpool vs Arsenal: Match Preview, Team news, Predicted XI and more

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Liverpool vs Arsenal: Match Preview, Team news, Prediction and more

Liverpool host Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday with both teams hoping to extend their 100% domestic record with the third win of their Premier League season.

The Reds thrashed Norwich 4-1 in the Premier League curtain-raiser before edging past Southampton 2-1 on Saturday. Sandwiched in between was their UEFA Super Cup triumph against Chelsea in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Gunners have also enjoyed a perfect start to their season, thanks to wins over Newcastle and Burnley, but the trip to Merseyside will represent their first acid test of the new season.

Arsenal’s recent visits to Anfield have been embarrassing, to say the least. Liverpool have scored 22 goals out of 30 in some staggering victories against the north London club in recent times. So, Unai Emery has a mighty task of changing the scenario at the weekend.

Team News

For Liverpool, Alisson Becker has a suspected grade two tear and is not expected to be fit for the Arsenal game. Naby Keita has a muscle problem and will miss Saturday’s game, while Nathaniel Clyne is a long-term casualty.

Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin is continuing his recovery from a cruciate ligament injury, although he won’t be available anytime soon. New signing Kieran Tierney remains unavailable due to a groin problem but Rob Holding has participated in full training with the first-team squad.

Granit Xhaka could return after missing the Burnley win while Mesut Ozil was absent due to illness and is back in full training now.

Predicted XIs

Liverpool (4-3-3): Adrian; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson; Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Georginio Wijnaldum; Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane.

Arsenal (3-5-2): Bernd Leno; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac; Matteo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette.

Tactical Prediction

Jurgen Klopp should go with his usual 4-3-3 formation on Saturday. Adrian will continue to deputise in goal, with Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk and Robertson forming the back-four.

Having Fabinho as the shield in front of the back-four, the likes of Wijnaldum and Chamberlain should get the free license to join the attacks often and cause problems to the Arsenal defence.

Liverpool’s high press is very difficult to contain and the onus will be on Chamberlain to help drive the attack from the midfield.

The Reds are powered by their front three of Mane, Firmino and Salah. They are slowly starting to hit form but given their fantastic record at Anfield against Arsenal, Klopp will expect his fiery front three to deliver the goods.

Unai Emery, on the other hand, could revert to a back-three system on Saturday. It is a system in which many of the Arsenal central defenders feel comfortable.

David Luiz is the best ball-playing defender of the lot and he will be accompanied by Sokratis and Monreal at the back, with Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac as wing-backs.

The Gunners will look to use the width while hitting Liverpool on the counter as full-backs Alexander-Arnold and Robertson are defensively suspect and provide a lot of space behind them due to their natural attacking mindset.

Guendouzi has started the season encouragingly and should be partnered in the midfield by Xhaka, and Ceballos, who royally impressed with his performance against Burnley. It’ll be vital for Arsenal’s midfield to nullify the threat of Wijnaldum and Chamberlain while in transition.

As record-signing Pepe is still being eased in, Emery is expected to go with the two-pronged attack of Aubameyang and Lacazette. Liverpool have been shaky at the back so far in the new season, which could present Lacazette and Aubameyang with some chances to pounce on.

Predicted Result

It’ll be a wild contest in front of the ever-boisterous Anfield crowd. Expect Liverpool to dominate possession, press very hard, force mistakes and pounce on it.

Also, expect their backline to make a couple of errors and get punished by Arsenal’s attack. Nevertheless, the game should end in favour of the Reds.

Prediction: Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal

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Arsenal? Manchester United? – Which of the big clubs will achieve a top-4 finish in the PL this season?

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Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man United- who will miss out on top four?

The 2018/19 Premier League title race went down to the wire, with Manchester City beating Liverpool to the crown by just a point. The team that followed them were Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United respectively.

The new season is just two games old and Liverpool and Arsenal are the only teams to have enjoyed a 100% record thus far, after Manchester United dropped points in the 1-1 draw with Wolves at Molineux on Monday.

We saw an entertaining battle between Manchester City and Tottenham end in a 2-2 draw at the Etihad last weekend, with VAR’s intervention denying the champions a late winner. These are early days but the Premier League table is shaping up very well.

Image result for Manchester United

Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal have comprised the table’s top six in each of the previous three seasons.

Considering City and Liverpool are set to battle it out again for the Premier League title, which two teams amongst Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United will make it to the top four this time? Let’s have a look.

Chelsea

Just two games into the new season, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is already under pressure to find some tactical answers as he is still seeking his first Premier League victory.

After the opening day mauling at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford, Chelsea’s performances improved in the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool and the 1-1 draw with Leicester City at the weekend, although Lampard’s men were lucky to escape with a point.

The Blues’ transfer window embargo meant Lampard couldn’t strengthen his squad in the summer. The 41-year-old had to be content with the squad set up by Maurizio Sarri but without Eden Hazard, who joined Real Madrid.

Hazard contributed directly to half of Chelsea’s league goals last season, and their attack was almost totally reliant on him. The Belgian’s departure has left a huge void and that coupled with the exits of experienced defenders Gary Cahill and David Luiz, Lampard’s Chelsea are set for a long season.

Prediction: There have been more negatives than positives in Chelsea’s first two league games and while Lampard will take time to give his side a fixed style of play, it’s difficult to see the Blues making it to the top four.

Tottenham

Against all odds, Tottenham reached the Champions League final last season only to fail at the final hurdle. A combination of their European exploits and a failure to make new signings saw their Premier League form suffer.

However, Spurs spent heavily this summer, signing players like Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon.

Pochettino’s side have started the new campaign well, taking four points out of a possible six. Despite the departures of Kieran Trippier, Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen, Tottenham have been boosted by their new signings and can better last season’s finish.

Prediction: If Pochettino can keep Harry Kane fit throughout the season and get the best out of his new signings, Tottenham can threaten to make it a three-horse title race this time around.

Arsenal

There is a real buzz at Arsenal because of the arrival of new faces at the Emirates and the rollicking start they have made to the new campaign.

Victories over Newcastle and Burnley means that the Gunners have enjoyed a perfect start, although a trip to Liverpool beckons at the weekend. Considering their recent visits to Anfield, it could be all doom and gloom for the North London giants.

Nevertheless, Unai Emery will be happy with the start and would expect things to get better. On loan from Real Madrid, Dani Ceballos made quite an impact on his full debut against Burnley, while the fans also saw glimpses of quality from star man, Nicolas Pepe.

But the Gunners still look defensively shaky and that was visible in the game against Burnley.

David Luiz’s acquisition from Chelsea on the transfer deadline day was a coup but his track-record of clumsy and erratic defending will hardly fill Bernd Leno with confidence.

Then there is the error-prone Shkodran Mustafi, an ageing Sokratis Papastathopoulos and a not-yet-fit Rob Holding in central defence.

Prediction: While Pepe has given a different threat and dynamism to the Arsenal attack, Emery’s defence could again plot his downfall. They’ll miss Aaron Ramsey’s midfield vigour and big-game performances. Frankly, the Gunners won’t make it to the top four this season.

Manchester United

Despite a frustrating transfer window, Manchester United brought three new players in Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. And all three of the new signings have made an impact in the first two weeks of the new season, helping the Red Devils bag four points out of a possible six.

Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, Manchester United have only made the Premier League top-four twice. This shows just how far they’ve fallen from grace.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to bring the glory days back at Old Trafford by promoting young players and playing relentless attacking football.

United were defensively shambolic last season and Solskjaer strengthened his backline with the additions of Maguire and Wan-Bissaka. They lacked natural width as well and Solskjaer addressed it by bringing in the explosive Daniel James, who is also direct in his style of play.

The United boss has let go of Romelu Lukaku to Inter but didn’t sign a replacement. This seems like a plan to promote academy starlet Mason Greenwood.

Prediction: Going by the first two games, the Red Devils look more composed and secure at the back. Solskjaer’s army looks weak in the midfield and an injury to either Paul Pogba or any central midfielder could see them sweat.

Genuinely, though, the players seem sharper and fit, attacking with pace and hitting opponents on the counter. Despite some obvious weaknesses, the Red Devils’ immediate objective of steady improvement and a return to the top four seems possible.

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Wolves 1-1 Manchester United – Here’s where it went wrong for Solskjaer’s men

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How Wolves drew 1-1 with Manchester United at the Molineux

Manchester United had travelled to the Molineux Stadium on Monday to face Wolves, hoping to build on their winning start to this Premier League campaign.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side made a bright start to the game and opened the scoring in the 27th minute through Anthony Martial, who scored with a powerful finish from a tight angle.

However, the home team came up with a response in the second half through Ruben Neves’ fantastic long-range strike in the 55th minute.

Paul Pogba earned a penalty and had the chance to win it for the visitors, but his spot-kick was saved by Rui Patricio. In the end, Solskjaer’s Manchester United had to settle with a point as the game finished 1-1 at the Molineux.

The build-up to the game

Manchester United headed into Monday night’s game on the back of a fantastic 4-0 victory over Chelsea. Goals from Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James gave United a perfect start to the season.

Wolves, meanwhile, booked a place in the Europa League play-off after enjoying a thumping 8-0 aggregate victory over Armenian club FC Pyunik.

Tactical Analysis

Solskjaer dropped Andreas Pereira in favour of Daniel James for the only change he made to the starting lineup against Chelsea, fielding his team in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Wolves remained unchanged from their 0-0 draw with Leicester City, as Nuno Espirito Santo stuck to his usual 3-5-2 formation.

United started the game on the front foot and dominated possession straightaway. Wolves were happy to sit back, defend and wait for the counter-attack.

They defended in a low block with minimal space to work in the midfield as their midfielders Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Leander Dendoncker harried and hassled the United players into relinquishing possession.

As the game progressed and United began to control more of the ball, Wolves’ organised defence means it became difficult for the visitors to find any spaces to exploit. Nuno’s side were quite disciplined and well-drilled, clearing anything that came in and around the box.

Wolves’ deep block defence and intense press in the defensive third posed problems for United’s centrally-oriented attacking play. As a result, the visitors struggled to quickly switch play and execute their plans down the wide areas.

Despite Solskjaer’s men dominating possession, they couldn’t create chances to play centrally and even when they did on a few occasions, it was dealt with by the Wolves defenders.

As it happened

Wolves’ plan, however, was disrupted in the 27th minute when Martial fired home the opener after a Luke Shaw run distracted Coady and pulled him away to open up space for the Frenchman, who made no mistake and scored from inside the box with a left-footed shot.

United were utterly dominant and were unlucky not to double their lead before heading into half-time.

Matt Doherty came off at half time after picking up an injury and was replaced by Adama Traore. It was a forced substitution for Wolves but one that worked wonders.

Wolves came out all guns blazing in the second half, as expected, with Traore isolating Shaw and getting past him on a number of occasions with ease.

Nuno’s men started asking questions to United’s backline as Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota – the duo that rarely got any service from its teammates to thrive, became lively. And it was Traore who won the free-kick for Jimenez’s header that struck the post and was later cleared away for a corner.

From the resulting corner, Wolves equalised through Neves. Moutinho supplied a low cross towards the edge of the box to Neves, who controlled the ball and sorted out of his feet before rifling a shot to the top corner of the net, giving David de Gea absolutely no chance to save.

Solskjaer’s side were rattled after the equaliser and they had only themselves to blame. Before Neves’ goal, United had the chance to go 2-0 up when Wan-Bissaka played a simple pass to Lingard in the opposition box. But the 27-year-old failed to control the ball.

The visitors, however, responded well. Wolves had to deal with spells of wide play from United, who looked to increase the number of bodies inside the penalty area and thus prioritised attacking with crosses into the box.

And for all the possession they dominated after the equaliser, Paul Pogba, dancing his way past a couple of Wolves players and into the box, won a penalty after a foul from Conor Coady.

There was a brief discussion between Rashford and Pogba regarding the spot-kick before the latter took the responsibility. But Pogba’s penalty was kept out excellently by Rui Patricio as it was at a nice height to be saved.

What followed later wasn’t anything significant as the game ended 1-1 at Molineux.

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